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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

7th Circuit holds both parties lack standing in FCRA suit

Courts Appellate Seventh Circuit FCRA Credit Reporting Agency Standing

Courts

On January 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims and counterclaims in a privacy lawsuit, holding that neither party had standing under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In 2016, the consumer filed a lawsuit against the credit reporting agency claiming privacy violations and emotional distress after the agency released his credit information without authorization. According to the consumer, his credit information appeared on a “prescreen list” given to a prospective lender that was no longer under contract with the agency to make loan offers to pre-screened consumers. The agency filed an FCRA counterclaim arguing that the plaintiff violated the FCRA when he obtained a copy of the prescreen list without authorization in order to file the lawsuit. The district court dismissed both claims, ruling that neither party had standing to sue because they had not suffered a concrete injury.

On appeal, the 7th Circuit agreed with the decision, concluding the plaintiff failed to meet the injury-in-fact requirements under Article III and that any harm he may have suffered when the prescreen list was shared was “exceedingly remote and speculative.” According to the appellate court, “[i]dentifying a violation of a statutory right does not automatically equate to showing injury-in-fact for standing purposes.” Moreover, the plaintiff “had to come forward with something showing that he did not receive a firm offer, that [the prospective lender] would not have honored a firm offer, that he was affected by the lack of a firm offer, or that he suffered any actual emotional damages,” the 7th Circuit wrote, which he failed to do. The 7th Circuit also agreed with the district court that the company’s alleged reputational harm was insufficient to confer standing. The appellate court further rejected the agency’s second argument that defending the suit counted as a concrete injury, holding that the agency was attempting to “shoehorn itself into another cause of action,” and that the FCRA does not create an independent cause of action for which the agency can recover its costs.

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